A Whale of a Time!

An Englewood family combines fun and games with age-old customs to celebrate their son’s first birthday.



Photography by Story by Mia

Mapping a career path isn’t something toddlers do, but Pax Cho presumably figured out his future already— and he just celebrated his first birthday. For many Korean families, like the Chos of Englewood, commemorating a child’s first birthday means more than throwing a party with sweets and streamers.

“Centuries ago, it was harder for babies to make it past their first year,” explains Monica Sunwoo, Pax’s mother. “So when a child did meet that milestone, it was a big deal, and Korean families would celebrate with a Doljanchi (a blessing for good fortune on a child’s first birthday). Times have certainly changed since then, and the tradition has evolved into something more light-hearted.”

Having previously organized a Doljanchi for her first child, Celine, Sunwoo wanted to work with a professional planner for her son’s celebration. So she presented a couple of his beloved possessions—a plush whale and nautical-themed blanket—to Hannah Choi, owner of Little Confetti Events, for inspiration. Choi, who specializes in Korean first birthday parties, went right to work. “The whole process took about six months—from booking the venue and entertainment to prepping the decorations,” she explains. “It’s kind of like planning a wedding, because most families invite 80 to 100 guests. You have to find a venue that can accommodate so many people, and they usually book quickly.” The family selected the spacious Fleming’s Steakhouse in Edgewater, where, according to Sunwoo, “everyone had so much fun, we didn’t want to leave!”

Keeping typical Doljanchi traditions in mind, Choi arranged Pax’s party to revolve around two focal points. The first was the main table, which held most of the nautical-themed decorations and desserts. (Choi displayed whale-shaped place cards and served cakes with blue “ocean wave” frosting, for instance.)

The second part of the event was the Doljabi, a fortune-telling ceremony where a selection of meaningful items was laid out in front of Pax. According to Korean culture, whichever item the child “chooses” first predicts his or her future. The traditional items have changed over the years—strands of rope, which represent a long life, have been substituted with more modern choices like stethoscopes and dollar bills to predict the baby’s career path.

Choi took the celebration a step further, creating a raffle for the adults. The names of each guest were placed into jars that correspond with each item. After Pax chose his item, a guest’s name was pulled from the corresponding jar. The winner received a special prize, provided by Pax’s mom and dad. “I’ve seen everything from $25 Amazon gift cards to Tiffany & Co. jewelry and iPads given out to the winners!” Choi says. “No matter the prize, everyone enjoys taking part in the festivities.”

So what is Pax’s fortune? Clad in a turquoise traditional Korean robe, he chose a bowl of rice (representing abundance) and a pencil (intelligence), over other items such as a microphone and $20 bill. But on that day, Pax was unconcerned about the future. Instead, he enjoyed a frosted cookie from the long table of goodies and the shower of hugs from friends and family.

Party planner Hannah Choi topped Pax Cho’s three-tier birthday cake with a replica of the boy’s favorite whale

As part of a traditional Doljabi portion of the party, 1-year-old Pax selects an item that “predicts” his future career path; Pax’s family (sister Celine, mother Monica and father Jimmy) is all smiles

Nautical-themed desserts and whale place cards adorn the guest tables

Younger guests are entertained by balloon art and face painting.

Edit Module

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Find Events

May 2018

Bring your curious kids to TOUCHA- TRUCK, sponsored by the Junior League of Bergen County at Nordstrom’s Garden State Plaza location. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., children can get behind the wheel...

Cost: Tickets: $25 (for a family-of-four pack)

Where:
Nordstrom’s Garden State Plaza
, NJ


Website »

More information

Join the Bergen County Historical Society for its annual PINKSTER FEST at New Bridge Landing in River Edge from 1 to 5 p.m. The fest is a traditional Jersey Dutch celebration of springtime and will...

Cost: Admission: FREE

Where:
New Bridge Landing
River Edge, NJ


Website »

More information

Put on your thinking cap and head to the Tenafly Nature Center for a SEASONAL SCAVENGER HUNT from 2 to 3 p.m. Families will receive a set of clues and solve nature-themed riddles along the nature...

Cost: Admission: $6

Where:
Tenafly Nature Center
Tenafly, NJ


Website »

More information

Rides, Food, Games & Fun for the Whole Family! Free Admission & Free Street Parking Plus ...Daily Chance to Win! - 50/50 & Gift Basket Raffle!  Rides for all ages.

Cost: Free Admission & Parking

Where:
Church of the Assumption
32 Locust Ave.
Emerson, NJ  07630
View map »


Telephone: 201-262-1122
Contact Name: Brian Beahm
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

 Renowned virtuoso guitarist and composer Gil Gutiérrez with bassist David Rodriguez and violinist Robert Sternmakes a much–anticipated return to the legendary Jazz Standard in New...

Cost: $30

Where:
Jazz Standard
116 E. 27th Street
New York, NY
View map »


Telephone: 212-576-2232
Website »

More information

Embrace your creative side during a series of PENCIL DRAWING CLASSES at the Hillsdale Library. Local artist Deidre Malloy will lead the class, and each session covers a different topic:...

Cost: Admission: FREE (but there is a $5 fee for supplies)

Where:
Hillsdale Library
, NJ


Telephone: 201.358.5072
Contact Name: Marian Sheeran

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events
No Events
No Events

Your First Mud Run is the ONLY mud run in the country designed so both parents and kids can run together. Our courses are 1.5 - 2 miles and include 10 - 16 obstacles that are designed for...

Cost: $45-$55

Where:
Century Field
75 Elizabeth St.
Garifeld, NJ  07026
View map »


Sponsor: Your First Mud Run
Telephone: 201-891-4115
Contact Name: Brad Vaccaro
Website »

More information

Dare to get dirty at YOUR FIRST MUD RUN at Century Field in Garfield, which starts at 10 a.m. The 1.5- to 2-mile courses are complete with obstacles like rows of tires, walls to climb over, jump...

Cost: Registration: $37

Where:
Century Field
Garfield, NJ


Website »

More information

Join members, friends & neighbors as we celebrate a new season. The pool opens with the ringing of the bell, words of welcome & our annual pool jump-in! A pot-luck lunch will be served, bring a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Highlands Natural Pool
180 Snake Den Road
Ringwood, NJ  07456
View map »


Sponsor: Highlands Natural Pool
Telephone: 973-835-4299
Contact Name: Emily Berry
Website »

More information

Ocean Galleries kicks off Memorial Day weekend with guest artist, Josef Kote, who returns to Stone Harbor, NJ for the second consecutive year, bringing with him an all new collection of dramatic...

Cost: Free & Open to the Public with ALL Artwork Available for Acquisition.

Where:
Ocean Galleries
9618 Third Ave
Stone Harbor, NJ  08247
View map »


Sponsor: Ocean Galleries
Telephone: 609-576-3717
Contact Name: Kim Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module